In sports media circles, certain terms and clichés are overused. Gamer, competitor, a true professional, plays the game the right way. Many of those baseball phrases get tossed around to those undeserving. Roy Halladay was very much deserving of each.
From 2010 until this past season – certainly a forgettable one – I had the honor of covering Halladay for various outlets, which was one of the great joys of this industry. Getting the opportunity to see a man so driven, so in love with the game was always fascinating. From the December trade, to his first start, to his perfect game and no-hitter, to his demise, it was quite a ride over the last four seasons.
Halladay’s career didn’t begin without its issues and humbling experiences. What makes his career so special was his ability to shake off major trouble early on to become a two-time Cy Young Award winner – one in each league – and a 200 game winner.
From afar, I marveled at the type of pitcher Halladay was in Toronto. Devouring innings, striking out batters when needed, showing uncanny control, and most times managing to stay nearly unhittable in an unforgiving league and division.
When he was acquired by the Phillies, excitement levels reached epic proportions. The best in baseball was now part of a possible dynasty. He was the missing ingredient, the White Whale, that would keep the Phillies at the pinnacle for years to come. Unfortunately, things seldom work out the way you plan them to, and for Doc, the title, and dynasty, would never come.
From my seat, which was sometimes the best in the house, I was lucky enough witness a plethora of incredible events. The playoff no-hitter against the Reds is, of course, the one forever etched in my memory; but others stand out, as well. His first home start against the Marlins in Philadelphia. The clincher against the Nationals in 2010. Countless amazing performances.
Although I was not in attendance, Halladay’s perfect game against the Marlins is a moment I’ll never forget, and a moment that Phillies fans will recall vividly. You know where you were that night. I happened to be in a car listening to the final innings on the MLB App for iPhone – imagine that. Myself and three other friends were on vacation in Ocean City, MD, and wouldn’t leave the car until the feat had been accomplished. It was. Beers were had in celebration shortly thereafter.
Outside the lines, I’ll always recall Halladay’s tireless work ethic, such as the various occasions he was seen running the steps through Citizens Bank Park, keeping his 6’6″ frame in game shape. If my memory serves me correct, Halladay was once seen running the warning track in the middle of winter.
Up close and personal, his monotone demeanor never oozed personality, but that was just him. Stay private. Do your job. Win games. Win a championship. That seemed to be Halladay’s motto. And although he never blew anyone away with his post game interviews, he was thoughtful and answered every question pitched to him, no matter how ridiculous or repetitive they became.
On the regular, Halladay was seen smiling with underprivileged youngsters from Philadelphia, as happy to be in their presence as they were his. He made a clear impression on his teammates, too.
“He was one of the best competitors who ever played this game and taught everyone around him to prepare the right way in order to be the best,” said Cole Hamels. For me, personally, he helped me understand the game more and gave me insight on how to become a top of the line starting pitcher.”
Another tireless worker, Chase Utley even admired Halladay’s non-stop mentality.
“Roy Halladay is the ultimate competitor. He is by far the hardest worker that I’ve ever seen and treated every game as if it were his last. It was no coincidence why he was the best pitcher of his era. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to watch him pitch for four years. I’ll miss his presence and passion but, most of all, I will miss his intensity.”
Halladay made it known that once his arm or body no longer could cooperate with the rigors of his profession, he wouldn’t force himself to stick around. How many players have we seen stick around to collect a paycheck? Doc wouldn’t have it. And he didn’t. Money had never been the driving force behind any of this anyway.
As it turns out, Halladay had been dealing with major health issues that he kept to himself, suffering from two pars fractures in his back, plus an eroded disc between L4 and L5.
Certainly, it must be a bittersweet day for Doc, having to leave the game he put so much effort into on account of an arm that will no longer do it’s job. But hopefully he takes solace in the fact that he leaves having been one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, retiring without the horrors a late-30’s pitcher often endures.
Hopefully – although you know how it goes these days – Halladay will find his name among the giants of the game in Cooperstown. Although his 203 wins would be one of the lowest totals for a Hall of Famer starting pitcher, I think we know that stat holds little water in this day and age. Halladay was the best pitcher in the majors for at least five years, perhaps an entire decade, and has myriad accolades that should paint the picture well for voters in the future. He’s a Hall of Famer, no doubt.
For Phillies fans, we’ll always have the fond memories Doc provided in his short, but fulfilling journey through Philadelphia. We’ll always look back at a man who was a gamer, a amazing competitor, true pro, and much more.